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Student Guide 

Walking to the Sky 

By Robert Buckley  

Lesson Goals:

1. Students will perform sections of Walking to the Sky with improved tone, articulation,
and alignment while also being challenged to assess and offer suggestions to their peers
2. Students will perform A section melody with improved tone and intonation.
3. Students will differentiate articulation styles in WTTS by comparing air support and
articulation word references.
4. Students will aurally analyze what sections play certain parts of the piece.
5. Students will be able to perform all transitions between differing section of style with
immediate response to style appropriation
6. Students will perform the last section of WTTS with musical accuracy, alignment, and
correct articulation with word/phrase guidance.

Background Guidance:

Unit 1: Composer
Robert Buckley was born in Brighton, England in 1958. He now divides his time between
Vancouver, Montreal, and Holland. Buckley took up the piano at the age of ten, and he began
composing almost immediately. At the age of twelve he started playing the clarinet inspired by
the opening solo in "Rhapsody In Blue". Soon after that he began playing the saxophone and
flute. He formed various bands in high school for which he wrote music; he also wrote for the
school orchestra, concert band and jazz band. He studied with California composer Hubert Klyne
Headley who exposed him to the twentieth century music of Stravinsky, Bartok, Ravel,
Shostakovich. He studied composition, conducting and arranging at the University of
Washington with American composer William Bergsma and studied electronic music at the
University of British Columbia. His career path has been very diverse including work as a
composer, arranger, performer, producer, recording artist, and conductor. He has created many
albums and hit songs with performing labels such as CBS and A&M. He has also conducted and
arranged for major artists including Michael Buble, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Our Lady peace,
Simple Plan, and Aerosmith. For film and television he has composed music for many award
winning shows for Disney, ABC, FOX, CBS, PBS, etc. Robert composed for worldwide events
including the Calgary Olympics, the Victoria Commonwealth Games, the Vancouver Olympics
and the FIFA World Cup Opening Ceremony with Cirque Du Soleil. He composed This Is My
Home for the Canadian Pavilion at the World Expo – a song that has been performed at every
Canada Day since and has become a Canadian tradition. In the concert world, he has composed
and conducted for major symphony orchestras and his symphonic wind band compositions are
being performed worldwide. Recently, he had the honour of recording a CD called
Undercurrents with the renowned Naden Band of the Canadian Navy. His concert music is
published by Hal Leonard.
Unit 2: Composition
Walking to the Sky is just one of Robert Buckley’s many pieces for band. The piece is inspired
by a 100 foot tall sculpture created by Jonathan Borofsky, also entitled Walking to the Sky. The
sculpture creates the illusion of a group of people of all ages, races, and genders walking
skyward into the sky. It was this vision that motivated Buckley to create this piece to “celebrate
humankind’s collective quest for wisdom and transcendence.” Buckley was very inspired by
movie music and movie scoring at the time he wrote this piece. The sudden shifts in dynamics
and unexpected key changes give the piece a certain drama and excitement. There are two main
themes in the piece. One that Buckley describes as “a majestic theme introduced by the low brass
representing the quest,” and the other is “a lyrical theme introduced by the upper woodwinds
representing humanity.”

Unit 3: Historical Perspective

Walking to the Sky was composed very recently in 2016. Currently composers are trying to write
new and exciting music for younger bands. This grade 3 piece combines excitement and a little
bit of challenge with the independence of parts. Today, many composers are working to compose
postmodern music. Robert Buckley does not have this goal in mind. He wants to make all music
accessible for all age groups and playing abilities. Walking to the Sky’s cinematic feel and the
drama created from it gives the piece the kick it needs to exceed the expectations of its modern

Unit 4: Technical Considerations

Walking to the Sky is a moderately challenging piece for young high schoolers. Tonal centers of
D minor, C minor and F minor must be required for the full ensemble. Upper woodwinds will
need to be able to play arpeggios in all required keys. Intonation and balance will be a huge
problem for the entire band, because of many exposed playing spots and the independence of
each part. Many melody lines are presented in unison which may or may not be a problem
depending on our ability to tune and listen. 1​st​ trumpets will need to be comfortable playing up to
an E in the staff, and Horns will need to be comfortable enough with the partials to play in major
and minor thirds throughout the piece.

Unit 5: Stylistic Considerations

There are many contrasting styles throughout Walking to the Sky. The beginning starts out very
soft and subdued, but with a short articulation from the clarinets and saxophones. The A section
melody is never heavy or heavily articulated and should float over the top of the ensemble. The
B section should be very lyrical and legato. The 8​th​ notes should provide a small amount of
contrast but not too short. As each section returns it grows in dynamic, scoring, and articulation
demands. Accented 8​th​ patterns will be very important and will need to be ensured to have the air
accent on TAH opposed to a hard tongue accent. Vertical alignment will be huge once we reach
a point where notes and rhythms are not a problem. Half note lines become important in the A
section melody and again at the end of some sections where most of the ensemble has a half note
line leading/pushing into the next section.

Unit 6: Musical Elements

The beginning of the piece starts out with very thin scoring to create a sense of tranquility for
even just a moment. As the baritones, bassoon, and tenor sax come in with the melody, we
should feel it beginning to grow and decay. In 25, the flute, ob, cl1 line will need help with
shaping and phrasing up in the high register. The return of the A section depicts that we are
adding more weight and substance to the sound in regards to both the melody and the
accompaniment. The most important musical change is the accents at the end and not changing
the dynamics at the end of the piece.

Unit 7: Form and Structure

Form Measures Comments

A 1-25 Clarinets and saxophones only—melody

comes in at 9
B 26-41 Flute, oboe, cl1 melody. Sparsely scored
A 42-72 Growing, more people playing melody.
Arpeggios beginning at m. 49 and
continue through key change
A’ 73-84 Synth solo with flute, oboe, and clarinet
1. Very sparsely scored accompaniment.
B 85-104 Same as 25—different key, more people
playing. Brass accented 8​th​ note pattern.

A 105-end Marcatto with legato interruptions, but

melody remains full and confident.
Growing to the end

Unit 8: Suggested Listening

Flying Colors—Robert Buckley
Post Cards from England—Robert Buckley Inception Soundtrack—Hans Zimmer
Practice Guide

Peer assessment:
Peer Assessment Prompts
A. Is my partner playing with good tone? How can I help them play with a more
rounded tone?
B. Is my partner playing all the right notes and rhythms?
C. Is my partner playing musically? How would I shape this phrase in my own
D. Is my partner playing with good posture?
E. Is my partner playing correct articulations? How can I help my partner have more
accurate articulation style?
Self Assessment:
Self Assessment Prompts
A. How is my tone? Is it characteristic of my instrument?
B. Am I playing technically accurate with good beat?
C. How is my phrasing? Does my musicality make sense for this piece?
D. What problems am I having with this piece? How can I solve those problems?

Link to 12 page warm up packet